'My babies could have died': Harrowing video shows twins tipping anchored Ikea bookcase
Nicole Oka had heard of Ikea furniture that tipped and crushed small children, a danger that killed at least 10 children. When the Californian mother and her husband selected a large Ikea bookcase for their twins' bedroom in 2017, the parents used the included hardware to anchor it to the wall, as suggested in the instructions.
"I remember being so scared of it," said Oka. "It felt like a very real thing that could happen to me."
Then it did.
In a harrowing incident recorded with a baby camera earlier this month, Oka's 2-year-old twins climbed onto the bookshelf in their bedroom after being put to bed and crashed the device forward. It tipped over, though secured, when one of the anchor brackets detached from the chipboard assembly. The video is the focus of a long-standing dispute between the retailer and security lawyers over whether Ikea's ready-to-install furniture is securely attached to the wall.
"My babies could have died," said Oka. "I did everything right. I did everything I should have. "
Ikea spokeswoman Hanna Bengtsander said in a statement that the company is aware of the incident and grateful that the children have not been injured.
"We are currently reviewing the video with the BRIMNES bookcase and it will take more time to understand the details better," she said. "We cannot make any additional comments at this time."
According to a spokeswoman for the agency, the US Commission for Consumer Product Safety is investigating the incident.
The video offers a rare glimpse of an overturn, a latent home hazard that has killed at least 459 children since 2000, according to federal security agencies, but is not often observed by parents. In other cases where nanny cameras were found to tip - including another where twins tipped an Ikea chest of drawers in 2017 - the parents said they had not anchored the furniture and shared the videos to raise awareness.
While practically all chests of drawers can tip, Ikeas have proven to be particularly dangerous and have caused five deaths since 2014. The company recalled 17.3 million chests of drawers in 2016, recognizing that most of its offices failed the intended stability test of the furniture industry to ensure that a chest of drawers stays upright when children pull it on. Last year, the company sold another chest of drawers for 16 weeks that did not meet the voluntary stability standard. This chest of drawers was recalled in March.
The Brimnes bookcase tipped onto the Oka twins is part of a line that includes three chests of drawers that were included in the 2016 recall. The large, slim unit has two drawers at the bottom and four shelves.
The Brimnes bookcase, which was tipped over Clara and Dominic Oka, is just over two meters tall. The Brimnes line includes three chests of drawers that were part of Ikea's recall for 2016.
Ikea has long stressed the importance of anchoring furniture and has told consumers who have recalled Ikea dressers that they are safe as long as they are properly attached to the wall. Security lawyers argue that the recalled dressers should be returned and destroyed.
Nancy Cowles, managing director of Kids' non-profit product safety department in Danger, said she knew of other cases where anchored Ikea furniture tipped over. The video of California's recent upset renewed her concern about the safety of Ikea's products, including the recalled dressers, millions of which remain in U.S. homes, she said.
"It shows that the anchor is not the resilience it was sold as," she said. "If the dresser is unstable, it won't be enough."
Ikea declined to say how many reports of anchored tipping of Ikea furniture had been received. USA TODAY found seven examples in incident investigation files obtained from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In three cases, the mounting parts held on to the wall, but separated from the chest of drawers.
In one case, a California contractor used a bolt finder to locate the wooden planks behind the drywall in his son's bedroom in 2007, and then screwed a nylon strap provided by Ikea into the dresser and bolt, as documented by the federal security agency . The device tipped over two years later when his then 7-year-old son pulled out two drawers at the same time.
Nicole and Dan Oka with their children Roman and the twins Dominic and Clara. The twins were unharmed when an Ikea bookcase tipped on it in June.
"The complainant examined the wall and found that the screw that fastened the nylon strap had been pulled out of the pressed wood on the back of the chest of drawers," the investigator wrote. "The screw and the nylon tape were still in the wall."
When asked about the cases, Ikea said there were no known incidents of properly anchored units toppling over and causing serious injury.
Oka said her husband followed the anchor instructions for her bookshelf exactly and used Ikea's two L-shaped brackets. The company includes screws to secure the brackets to the device and instructs consumers to choose their own wall mounts. Oka said her husband screwed one bracket into a wall post and the other, which was not aligned with a post, into the drywall.
The unit seemed safe until June 3, she said.
The parents had put the twins to bed around 7:15 p.m. tonight. After they left, 2-year-old Clara went to the bookshelf, pulled out a drawer and got in. Her brother Dominic jumped to her. "Dominic, drawer, drawer," she said. With the weight of both twins in the bottom drawer, the unit stretched forward and then crashed.
Oka said she heard the bang from above, looked at the baby monitor, and saw the bookcase flat on the floor. She went down the stairs to her bedroom several times at the same time and lifted the bookshelf from her children with her husband. She checked for bumps and bruises and found none.
After they were put back to bed, Oka's anger quickly set in. "I was so angry and I immediately thought I had to tell someone," she said. "I have to find someone who can hear this story."
She contacted the Philadelphia law firm, which represented several parents whose children died when Ikea dressers overturned. Lawyer Daniel Mann connected her with one of these parents, explained how to file a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and offered to inform Ikea about the incident.
The twins Dominic and Clara Oka were unharmed when the Ikea bookcase in their California bedroom tipped over in June. Her mother Nicole Oka said the bookcase was attached to the wall, but the anchor had been torn from the chipboard unit.
Oka said she did not intend to file lawsuits against the company because her children were not injured. She has watched the video countless times to find out how this happened and believes the bookshelves fell out when the unit crashed forward, so that her children could be caught in the frame but not crushed.
That night after getting her twins back to bed, Oka said she had checked the stability of another Ikea bookcase in her 4-year-old son's bedroom. The Billy line unit was also anchored, but detached from the wall when Oka pulled on it. She hopes that the video will make the danger to other parents real and encourage them not only to anchor their furniture, but also to test the strength of these anchors.
"I'm so glad I have this video. As horrible as it is to see it, I know the result was that they were fine, ”she said. "And your mind will obviously go to the children who are not well."
Tricia L. Nadolny is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigation team. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TriciaNadolny.
I have an Ikea chest of drawers. What now?
Was my chest of drawers part of the recall?
If you have a Malm chest of drawers that was sold between 2002 and mid-2016, there is a good chance that it has been recalled. But more than 100 other lines of Ikea chests of drawers are also included. For a complete list of products and steps to participate in the recall, go to ikea-usa.com/saferhomestogether.
I have a recalled chest of drawers. Should I keep it or get rid of it?
If it is not anchored, first make sure that it cannot be reached by children.
The recall enables people to keep or return the item. However, lawyers recommend removing the chests of drawers from homes because they fear they will not be anchored or will be used later by someone who does not know the recall. Many of the recalled dressers can be returned for a full refund. Consumers can take the chest of drawers to any Ikea dealer, or Ikea can collect it from your home for free.
I want to keep my Ikea chest of drawers. What are my options?
You should anchor it on the wall. You can request a free wall anchoring kit from Ikea and install it yourself, or Ikea can send someone to your home to install it for you free of charge.
Do I need a receipt to take part in the callback?
No receipt is usually required, but Ikea says a receipt can be requested based on the total number of dressers returned by a customer.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: The video shows an anchored Ikea bookcase crashing into twins
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